Interim Final Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Rule Published:
The Interim final rule for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) was posted on Monday, July 28, 2008.
Among other items, the rule covers muscle cuts and ground beef and dictates the standards that warrant various labels, including “United States Country of Origin.” Covered commodities must be labeled with their country of origin, but can be exempted from labeling if they are an ingredient in a processed food item. Additionally, the rule does not apply to food service establishments, such as restaurants.
The rule makes implementing COOL more feasible by reducing the recordkeeping retention requirements for suppliers and centrally-located retail records to one year.
Andy Groseta, president of NCBA and a cattle producer from Arizona, said that NCBA will be concentrating on assisting producers in their efforts to comply with the new rule. “Our focus now is on how best to implement COOL in a manner that provides maximum benefit and minimal disruption to our ranchers,” he said. “NCBA will continue to work on behalf of our cattlemen to put in place an effective and accurate labeling system. Additionally, we will be leading the effort to educate producers on how to comply with the new rule.”
Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act Debated in House:
The House of Representatives held a hearing on Thursday, July 31, 2008 on the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 6598), a bill which would criminalize the humane slaughter of horses. The hearing was generally favorable towards passage of the bill, and Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States provided testimony.
The bill was introduced under the guise of protecting horse welfare, but it will produce unintended and inhumane consequences. Since state laws have banned horse processing, the number of abandoned, neglected, and starving horses has drastically increased.
The majority of horses processed for slaughter in the United States are no longer viable for their intended use, unmanageable, or simply unwanted by their owners. These horses are sold at auction with some going to horse processing plants. The plants, when in operation provided humane euthanasia as dictated by the Humane Slaughter Act.
This bill would severely limit the rights of owners to manage their private property and subject horse owners to criminal prosecution should they sell their horses for processing.
NCBA continues to oppose this legislation, and has created a template for members to use when contacting members of Congress regarding this issue: http://www.capwiz.com/beefusa
USDA Announces That There Will Be No Early Opt-Outs of CRP Contracts:
On Tuesday, July 29, 2008, USDA announced that it will not allow for penalty-free withdrawals from Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts.
Producers who elect early withdrawal from CRP contracts will have to return all CRP payments, along with interest and a penalty. In the last year and a half, 290,000 acres have been released with these penalties.
This September, contracts will terminate for 1.1 million acres of CRP land, making those lands eligible for CRP release. In September of 2009, 3.8 million acres will be available, and in September of 2010, an additional 4.4 million acres will be eligible.
In the press conference announcing this decision, USDA Secretary Ed Schafer noted that even with floods and damaging weather events, the department is forecasting the second largest corn crop ever.
WTO Doha Negotiations Falter in Geneva:
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab released a statement on Tuesday, July 29, 2008 on the lack of progress in the Doha round of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) free trade discussions in Geneva last week.
“While we made good progress during the past week, it is clear that despite our best efforts we will not be able to reach a breakthrough at this time,” Schwab noted.
The discussions were deadlocked on the issue of a method of remedying surges in agricultural imports. U.S. negotiators argued for a solution that would not allow for the creation of new non-tariff barriers to trade.
Schwab summarized the U.S. effort to reach a compromise: “Throughout these negotiations, the United States has been strongly committed and willing to make the tough choices necessary to achieve an ambitious breakthrough. Since the launch of the Round, we have worked tirelessly, traveling hundreds of thousands of miles, spending countless hours negotiating in good faith, all to sustain the Round and bring together a development outcome that would open new markets and create new trade flows.”
The full statement is available online here: http://www.ustr.gov/assets/Document_Library/Press_Releases/2008/July/asset_upload_file766_15043.pdf
House of Representatives approves ADUFA:
On Thursday July 31, 2008, Congress passed the Animal Drug User Fee Amendment of 2008 (ADUFA) into law. ADUFA authorizes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect fees for certain animal drug applications, which supports FDA’s ability to ensure that new animal drug products are safe and effective.
This bill provides for the continuation of ADUFA, which is set to sunset as of September, 2008.
NCBA worked to ensure that the legislation did not contain language banning the use of antibiotics in animal feed, and was pleased that the final legislation did not include that prohibition.